Welcome to our regular update on the progress we are making together to help people and nature thrive.
There is still so much more to do if we are to avert catastrophic global warming. But there were signs of progress in and around the recent COP26 global climate conference, which we feature below…
The science is clear. We must prevent the global temperature from rising by more than 1.5°C or risk catastrophic impacts for people and nature. At the UN COP26 climate conference, there were signs that world leaders are moving in the right direction after agreeing to positive measures, including the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and reducing the use of coal. But, with the world still on track for warming above 2°C, countries must do so much more. Together, we must call on leaders to set stronger targets for climate action, recognize the valuable role that nature-based solutions can play, finance the work needed to build a safer future, and deliver a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
COP26 saw world leaders recognize that action to protect and restore nature must be at the heart of the response to the climate crisis. From forests that store carbon to the mangroves that help safeguard our coastal communities from the growing risk of floods, the natural world is our ally against climate change. So we welcome the historic declaration to halt forest loss and land degradation by 2030, signed by over 100 countries at COP26; the decision to hold an annual dialogue to strengthen ocean-based climate action; and the US$12 billion commitment by a number of states to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests. Although the COP26 decision recognized nature’s critical role in limiting global warming, we were disappointed that nature-based solutions to the climate crisis were not mentioned in the final text and we will be urging that this is taken up at next year’s COP in Egypt. WWF-backed analysis shows that nature-based solutions are a growing part of countries’ climate action plans, but governments need to do more.
Financial institutions must play their part in tackling the climate crisis – helping moves away from investing in greenhouse-gas-emissions-intensive activities to a more environmentally sustainable economy. So, while nations debated the global response to climate change at COP26, it was great to see the GFANZ alliance of over 450 investment firms across 45 countries commit to net-zero financial portfolios by 2050. We are proud to play our part in this as GFANZ was built upon the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, founded with WWF support in 2019. In addition, more than 30 financial institutions with US $8.7 trillion in assets under management committed to eliminate commodity-driven deforestation from their financial portfolios. The Asian Development Bank also launched an initiative to accelerate early retirement of coal fired power; and a partnership was launched to bring financial support to coal-dependent workers and accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon energy system in South Africa.
Indigenous Peoples and local communities have a vital role to play in leading global efforts against the climate and nature loss crises. And yet, many are denied control over their land and resources, and face both threats and even violence. So we warmly welcome the US $1.7 billion pledge by five countries during COP26 to directly finance Indigenous Peoples and local communities in activities ranging from strengthening land tenure systems to building sustainable livelihoods, while urging signatories to include them more closely in decision-making about funds. Fran Price, our Global Forest Practice Leader, said: “The announcement by the governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK and the US is a much-needed recognition of the important role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in nature conservation. It must be followed through by their full and effective participation in policy and decision-making processes, including in national climate plans, and direct funding to organizations representing them.”
Beyond COP26, there has also been other important progress in our efforts to help people and nature thrive…
Nature loss has dramatically risen up the political agenda in recent years, with leaders recognizing the dangers it poses to human health and the global economy. Many world leaders, businesses and organizations are already committing to, and taking, ambitious action to reverse nature loss this decade. And WWF too is calling for action to reverse nature loss to secure a nature-positive world by 2030 – meaning there is more nature in 2030 than there was at the start of the current decade. So, building on Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and G7 commitments, it was great to see government ministers make a highly significant declaration at a recent UN biodiversity conference in China. The declaration says that the new global plan for nature in the coming decade, which will be decided in the coming months, must target reversing the loss of nature by 2030, while ensuring natural resources are used sustainably and fairly. We welcome the declaration but will not rest until governments turn these words into reality.
While many countries recognize the right to a healthy environment within their constitutions or national legislation, there is no international agreement on this – something that would strongly benefit people and nature. So, earlier this year, we joined more than 1,300 organizations across 75 countries in calling on states to recognize a healthy environment as a universal human right. And our lobbying is beginning to pay off. Five countries (Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland) recently tabled a UN resolution calling for global recognition of this right, a call endorsed by more than 60 governments so far. And 50 leading global businesses have also signed a statement of support.
WWF-backed efforts in South Korea to reintroduce Asiatic black bears to the wild have led to a dramatic revival of the species. The bear population had been almost wiped out after years of hunting. But, in 2004, cubs from China, North Korea and Russia started to be reintroduced to South Korea’s Jirisan National Park, supported by a captive breeding programme. Seventy bears now live in the protected area, thanks in part to work with local communities to help bears and people safely co-exist. There are still challenges to overcome as individuals begin to roam outside the national park in search of new habitat. But the signs are good for the future of the species in South Korea – and the country has also established other reintroduction programmes for the long-tailed goral and red fox.